Duke Of Earl

Album: Gene Chandler's Greatest Hits (1962)
Charted: 1


  • "Duke Of Earl" was borne out of a vocal exercise. To warm up their pipes, the Chicago vocal group The Dukays would sing "ah ah ah" and "du du du" in shifting pitch. At one rehearsal, their "du du du"s sounded really good together, so they decided to develop it into a song. They needed their hook to form a real word, so "du" became "Duke." The baritone singer in the group was Earl Edwards, so "Duke" became "Duke Of Earl."

    Eugene Dixon, their lead vocalist, put together some lyrics so sing while the rest of the group harmonized. The verses find him telling a girl that nothing can stop him, and she'll be safe as long as she has the Duke Of Earl by her side. Someday, she'll be his duchess and they'll walk through his dukedom paradise.

    You can get away with "dukedom" when the harmony vocals are so catchy.

    The group got a deal with Nat Records and recorded the song in 1961 along with five other songs, including "The Girl's A Devil," which Nat released as a single. That song went to #64 in July 1961.

    Nat had no interest in "Duke Of Earl," so they sold the song to a bigger Chicago label, Vee Jay Records, which was very excited about it. They couldn't release it as The Dukays because Nat owned the name, so they made a deal with the group's lead singer, Eugene Dixon, signing him as a solo artist and releasing "Duke Of Earl" under his new stage name: Gene Chandler (from the actor Jeff Chandler).

    Leaving The Dukays was a risk - the group had a chart hit and was on the rise - but Chandler made the right move. "Duke Of Earl" went to #1 in February 1962 and became one of the most famous doo-wop songs of all time. That same month, the next Dukays single,"Nite Owl," peaked at #73. It was the last chart appearance for the group.
  • Songwriting credits on this one go to Gene Chandler, Earl Edwards, and a woman named Bernice Williams, who managed The Dukays and wrote some of their songs.
  • Chandler played up the image he created in this song by dressing in royal garb and releasing some singles as The Duke Of Earl, including one called "Walk On With The Duke." As Gene Chandler, he had a number of minor hits spread out across the '60s and '70s. He also started a label called Bamboo Records, which was home to Mel & Tim and their hit "Backfield In Motion."
  • A group called The Pearlettes released an answer song called "Duchess Of Earl," which hit #96 a month after "Duke Of Earl" topped the chart. The Pearlettes version tells the same story, but from the perspective of the girl.
  • Sandwiched between The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock in 1969, the doo-wop cover band Sha-Na-Na performed to what was left of the crowd on Monday morning. "Duke Of Earl" was one of the songs they played - others included "Jailhouse Rock" and "At The Hop."
  • In Stephen King's 1983 novel Christine, this plays on an Oldies station as Arnie shows off his newly restored classic car to his dad.
  • This was featured in these movies:

    King Ralph (1991)
    Hairspray (1988)
    Boulevard Nights (1979)
    Don't Knock The Twist (1962)

    And in these TV shows:

    NYPD Blue ("Large Mouth Bass" - 1995)
    Northern Exposure ("Heal Thyself" - 1993)
    Cheers ("Slumber Party Massacred" - 1988)
    Crime Story ("Shadow Dancer" - 1986)
    WKRP In Cincinnati ("Baby, It's Cold Outside" - 1981)

Comments: 17

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 22, 1962, Gene Chandler performed "Duke of Earl" on the Dick Clark ABC-TV weekday-afternoon program, 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #20 on Billboard's Top 100 chart, three weeks later it would peak at #1 {for 3 weeks} and it spent fifteen weeks on the Top 100...
    And on the day it peaked at #1 on the Top 100, it also reached #1 {for 5 weeks} on Billboard's Hot R&B Singles chart...
    Between 1962 and 1986 the Chicago native had thirty-four records on the Hot R&B Singles chart, eight made the Top 10 with one reaching #1*, the above "Duke of Earl"...
    Four of his 34 charted records were duets; two with Barbara Acklin and two with Jerry Butler...
    Mr. Chandler, born Eugene Drake Dixon, will celebrate it 81st birthday come next July 6th {2018}...
    * He just missed having a second #1 record when "Rainbow '65" peaked at #2 {for 1 week} in January 1966, the week it was at #2, the #1 record for that week was "I Got You (I Feel Good)" by James Brown.
  • Babbling Babette from Tulsa OkI loved "Duke of Earl" when it was released in early '62. The year 1962 had some giant hits & this was one. I guess it was one of the last "doo-wop" songs. I recall seeing Gene Chandler on TV shows back then with his snazzy cane, shoe-spats, and big black cape. How cool was that??!! Then in the 2000s I watched one of the PBS-TV concerts with Sixties stars. Gene Chandler was in one of the filmed concerts doing "Duke of Earl" walking down the aisle toward the stage in his top hat & tails & cape. So cool!!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 4th 1962, "Duchess of Earl" by the Pearlettes entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart for a two week stay; peaking at #96...
    It was the quartets only record to make the Top 100.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 22nd 1962, Gene Chandler performed "Duke of Earl" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 7th 1962, "Duke of Earl" by Gene Chandler entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on February 11th it peaked at #1 (for 3 weeks) and spent 15 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on February 11th it also reached #1 (for 5 weeks) on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    In 1979 the English doo-wop group The Darts covered it; their version peaked at #6 on the United Kingdom Singes chart...
    Nine years later in 1988 an Australian group named Dukes of Earlwood recorded their version, it peaked at #12 on the RPM Top Singles in Australia...
    Mr. Chandler, born Eugene Dixon, will celebrate his 77th birthday this coming July 6th.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, Nyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR-38pqzS38
  • Barry from Sauquoit, Nyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_BbtIsU55Q&feature=related
  • Joel from Halifax, NsCool song. It was interpolated into a Cypress Hill song.
  • Steve Dotstar from Los Angeles, CaI love it when Gene sings about "my dukedom"....
  • Vivian from Bradford, VtI've made some observations aboutthis excellent song at http://scrolling.blogs.com/drmetablog/2008/08/duke-duke-duke.html
  • Maggie from Waterford, OhThe movie hairspray was great the songs vocalizing is amazing and you can't help but listen to it
  • Marissa from Is This Optional?, OhI've known this song since I was a kid but ever since I saw the movie "Hairspray" whenever I hear it I find myself wishing I knew how to cha-cha!!! And yes, I am a nerdy freak. Thank you for noticing.
  • Mel from South Australia, Australiaused in the 'decore' shampoo ad on australian television...'de..de..de..decore-re-re...as i....shampoo my hair'
  • Louis Rodriguez from Lancaster, Cai have to agree with omer from winchester,va
    the early 1960's were the best
  • Keith Major from Bristol, EnglandI seem to recall that Darts also recorded this song in the late 1970's.
  • Omer from Winchester, Vathis song reminds me what is was like to be a teenager back in the 60's. it has to be one of my all-time favorite sons. omer middleton winchester virginia.
  • Neville from Perth, Western Australia, Australia:The Pearlettes did an answer song [The Duchess Of Earl] in 1962. It only reached No. 96 on the US top 100.
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Pam TillisSongwriter Interviews

The country sweetheart opines about the demands of touring and talks about writing songs with her famous father.

Grateful Dead CharactersMusic Quiz

Many unusual folks appear in Grateful Dead songs. Can you identify them?

Billy Steinberg - "Like A Virgin"They're Playing My Song

The first of Billy's five #1 hits was the song that propelled Madonna to stardom. You'd think that would get you a backstage pass, wouldn't you?

U2Fact or Fiction

How did The Edge get his name? Did they name a song after a Tolkien book? And who is "Angel of Harlem" about?

Reverend Horton HeatSongwriter Interviews

The Reverend rants on psychobilly and the egghead academics he bashes in one of his more popular songs.

16 Songs With a HeartbeatSong Writing

We've heard of artists putting their hearts into their music, but some take it literally.